“One, two, three — together!” It’s something
Riley Graskewicz is still getting used to — playing a pickup game pain free.
“My ankles were on fire every time I would like run up and down the court. My
wrists and hands were more like pressure.” This two-sport athlete spent her junior
high years dealing with discomfort as doctors struggled to explain her stiff
and swollen joints. “I woke up, and like, I could not open the door. I had
to use two hands to open it.” The problem was juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA,
a disease that affects roughly 16,000 children in the U.S. It happens when the
body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. The cause is unknown,
but genetics and environmental factors likely play a role. “They have a dull, achy,
chronic, slowly progressive pain, and that is why the diagnosis is mostly missed in
the early times.” Dr. Anjali Patwardhan is a pediatric rheumatologist at University
of Missouri Health Care. She says juvenile arthritis is often
misdiagnosed, partly due to a shortage of doctors trained in this subspecialty.
“There are some states in which there are no pediatric rheumatologists — zero.” Connecting
with Dr. Patwardhan was a game changer. Riley was given steroid shots in her
joints, as well as immunosuppressive drugs. Today, she’s in remission. Don’t let
anything stop you. Keep going, because you’ve got this.” Focused on her short game,
rather than her soreness. From the University of Missouri, I’m Teresa Snow.